Here we have the grounds or considerations upon which all the foregoing directions are urged, taken from the nature and design of the gospel, and the end of Christ’s death.
I. From the nature and design of the gospel. Let young and old, men and women, masters and servants, and Titus himself, let all sorts do their respective duties, for this is the very aim and business of Christianity, to instruct, and help, and form persons, under all distinctions and relations, to a right frame and conduct. For this,
1. They are put under the dispensation of the grace of God, so the gospel is called, Eph. 3:2. It is grace in respect of the spring of it—the free favour and good-will of God, not any merit or desert in the creature; as manifesting and declaring this good-will in an eminent and signal manner; and as it is the means of conveying and working grace in the hearts of believers. Now grace is obliging and constraining to goodness: Let not sin reign, but yield yourselves unto God; for you are not under the law, but under grace, Rom. 6:12-14. The love of Christ constrains us not to live to self, but to him (2 Cor. 5:14, 15); without this effect, grace is received in vain.
2. This gospel grace brings salvation (reveals and offers it to sinners and ensures it to believers)--salvation from sin and wrath, from death and hell. Hence it is called the word of life; it brings to faith, and so to life, the life of holiness now and of happiness hereafter. The law is the ministration of death, but the gospel the ministration of life and peace. This therefore must be received as salvation (its rules minded, its commands obeyed), that the end of it may be obtained, the salvation of the soul. And more inexcusable will the neglecters of this grace of God bringing salvation now be, since,
3. It hath appeared, or shone out more clearly and illustriously than ever before. The old dispensation was comparatively dark and shadowy; this is a clear and shining light; and, as it is now more bright, so more diffused and extensive also. For,
4. It hath appeared to all men; not to the Jews only, as the glory of God appeared at mount Sinai to that particular people, and out of the view of all others; but gospel grace is open to all, and all are invited to come and partake of the benefit of it, Gentiles as well as Jews. The publication of it is free and general: Disciple all nations: Preach the gospel to every creature. The pale is broken down; there is no such enclosure now as formerly. The preaching of Jesus Christ, which was kept secret since the world began, now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith, Rom. 16:25, 26. The doctrine of grace and salvation by the gospel is for all ranks and conditions of men (slaves and servants, as well as masters), therefore engaging and encouraging all to receive and believe it, and walk suitably to it, adorning it in all things.
5. This gospel revelation is to teach, and not by way of information and instruction only, as a schoolmaster does his scholars, but by way of precept and command, as a sovereign who gives laws to his subjects. It directs what to shun and what to follow, what to avoid and what to do. The gospel is not for speculation only or chiefly, but for practice and right ordering of life; for it teaches us,
(1.) To abandon sin: Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts; to renounce and have no more to do with these, as we have had: Put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man which is corrupt; that is, the whole body of sins, here distributed into ungodliness and worldly lusts. “Put away ungodliness and irreligion, all unbelief, neglect or disesteem of the divine Being, not loving, nor fearing, nor trusting in him, nor obeying him as we should, neglecting his ordinances, slighting his worship, profaning his name or day. Thus deny ungodliness (hate and put it away); and worldly lusts, all corrupt and vicious desires and affections that prevail in worldly men, and carry out to worldly things the lust of the flesh also, and of the eye, and the pride of life, all sensuality and filthiness, covetous desires and ambition, seeking and valuing more the praise of men than of God; put away all these.” An earthly sensual conversation suits not a heavenly calling. Those that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. They have done it by covenant-engagement and promise, and have initially and prevailingly done it in act; they are going on in the work, cleansing themselves more and more from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Thus the gospel first unteaches that which is evil, to abandon sin; and then,
(2.) To make conscience of that which is good: To live soberly, righteously, and godly, etc. Religion is not made up of negatives only; there must be doing good as well as eschewing evil; in these conjunctly is sincerity proved and the gospel adorned. We should live soberly with respect to ourselves, in the due government of our appetites and passions, keeping the limits of moderation and temperance, avoiding all inordinate excesses; and righteously towards all men, rendering to all their due, and injuring none, but rather doing good to others, according to our ability and their need: this seems a part of justice and righteousness, for we are not born for ourselves alone, and therefore may not live to ourselves only. We are members one of another, and must seek every man another’s wealth, 1 Cor. 10:24; 12:25. The public, especially, which includes the interests of all, must have the regards of all. Selfishness is a sort of unrighteousness; it robs others of that share in us which is their due. How amiable then will a just and righteous conduct be! It secures and promotes all interests, not particular only, but general and public, and so contributes to the peace and happiness of the world. Live righteously therefore as well as soberly. And godly towards God, in the duties of his worship and service. Regards to him indeed should run through all. Whether you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10:31. Personal and relative duties must be done in obedience to his commands, with due aim at pleasing and honouring him, from principles of holy love and fear of him. But there is an express and direct duty also that we owe to God, namely, belief and acknowledgment of his being and perfections, paying him internal and external worship and homage,—loving, fearing, and trusting in him,—depending on him, and devoting ourselves to him,—observing all those religious duties and ordinances that he has appointed,—praying to him, praising him, and meditating on his word and works. This is godliness, looking and coming to God, as our state now is, not immediately, but as he has manifested himself in Christ; so does the gospel direct and require. To go to God in any other way, namely, by saints or angels, is unsuitable, yea, contrary to the gospel rule and warrant. All communications from God to us are through his Son, and our returns must also be by him. God in Christ we must look at as the object of our hope and worship. Thus must we exercise ourselves to godliness, without which there can be no adorning of that gospel which is according to it, which teaches and requires such a deportment. A gospel conversation must needs be a godly conversation, expressing our love and fear and reverence of God, our hope and trust and confidence in him, as manifested in his Son. We are the circumcision (who have in truth what was signified by that sacrament) who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. See in how small a compass our duty is comprised; it is put into few words, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. The gospel teaches us not only how to believe and hope well, but also to live well, as becomes that faith and hope in this present world, and as expectants of another and better. There is the world that now is, and that which is to come; the present is the time and place of our trial, and the gospel teaches us to live well here, not, however, as our final state, but with an eye chiefly to a future: for it teaches us in all,
(3.) To look for the glories of another world, to which a sober, righteous, and godly life in this is preparative: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Hope, by a metonymy, is put for the thing hoped for, namely, heaven and the felicities thereof, called emphatically that hope, because it is the great thing we look and long and wait for; and a blessed hope, because, when attained, we shall be completely happy for ever. And the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. This denotes both the time of the accomplishing of our hope and the sureness and greatness of it: it will be at the second appearing of Christ, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels, Luke 9:26. His own glory which he had before the world was; and his Father’s, being the express image of his person, and as God-man, his delegated ruler and Judge; and of the holy angels, as his ministers and glorious attendants. His first coming was in meanness, to satisfy justice and purchase happiness; his second will be in majesty, to bestow and instate his people in it. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto those that look for him will he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation, Heb. 9:28. The great God and our Saviour (or even our Saviour) Jesus Christ; for they are not two subjects, but one only, as appears by the single article, tou megalou Theou kai Soteros, not kai tou Soteros, and so is kai rendered 1 Cor. 15:24; When he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; to Theo kai Patri. Christ then is the great God, not figuratively, as magistrates and others are sometimes called gods, or as appearing and acting in the name of God, but properly and absolutely, the true God (1 John 5:20), the mighty God (Isa. 9:6), who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, Phil. 2:6. In his second coming he will reward his servants, and bring them to glory with him. Observe, [1.] There is a common and blessed hope for all true Christians in the other world. If in this life only they had hope in Christ, they were of all men the most miserable, 1 Cor. 15:19. By hope is meant the thing hoped for, namely, Christ himself, who is called our hope (1 Tim. 1:1), and blessedness in and through him, even riches of glory (Eph. 1:18), hence fitly termed here that blessed hope. [2.] The design of the gospel is to stir up all to a good life by this blessed hope. Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. 1:13. To the same purport here, Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope; not as mercenaries, but as dutiful and thankful Christian. What manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God! 2 Pet. 3:11, 12. Looking and hastening, that is, expecting and diligently preparing for it. [3.] At, and in, the glorious appearing of Christ will the blessed hope of Christians be attained; for their felicity will be this, To be where he is, and to behold his glory, John 17:24. The glory of the great God and our Saviour will then break out as the sun. Though in the exercise of his judiciary power he will appear as the Son of man, yet will he be mightily declared to be the Son of God too. The divinity, which on earth was much veiled, will shine out then as the sun in its strength. Hence the work and design of the gospel are to raise the heart to wait for this second appearing of Christ. We are begotten again to a lively hope of it (1 Pet. 1:3), turned to serve the living God, and wait for his Son from heaven, 1 Thess. 1:9, 10. Christians are marked by this, expecting their Master’s coming (Luke 12:36), loving his appearance, 2 Tim. 4:8. Let us then look to this hope; let our loins be girt, and our lights burning, and ourselves like those who wait for their Lord; the day or hour we know not, but he that shall come will come, and will not tarry, Heb. 10:37. [4.] The comfort and joy of Christians are that their Saviour is the great God, and will gloriously manifest himself at his second coming. Power and love, majesty and mercy, will then appear together in the highest lustre, to the terror and confusion of the wicked, but to the everlasting triumph and rejoicing of the godly. Were he not thus the great God, and not a mere creature, he could not be their Saviour, nor their hope. Thus of the considerations to enforce the directions of all sorts to their respective duties from the nature and design of the gospel. And herewith is connected another ground, namely,
II. From the end of Christ’s death: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Titus 2:14. To bring us to holiness and happiness was the end of Christ’s death, as well as the scope of his doctrine. Here we have,
1. The purchaser of salvation—Jesus Christ, that great God and our Saviour, who saves not simply as God, much less as man alone; but as God-man, two natures in one person: man, that he might obey, and suffer, and die, for man, and be meet to deal with him and for him; and God, that he might support the manhood, and give worth and efficacy to his undertakings, and have due regard to the rights and honour of the deity, as well as the good of his creature, and bring about the latter to the glory of the former. Such a one became us; and this was,
2. The price of our redemption: He gave himself. The Father gave him, but he gave himself too; and, in the freeness and voluntariness, as well as the greatness of the offering, lay the acceptableness and merit of it. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself, John 10:17, 18. So John 17:19; “For their sakes I sanctify myself, or separate and devote myself to this work, to be both a priest and a sacrifice to God for the sins of men.” The human nature was the offering, and the divine the altar, sanctifying the gift, and the whole the act of the person. He gave himself a ransom for all, 1 Tim. 2:6. Once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. He was the priest and sacrifice too. We are redeemed, not with silver and gold, but the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18, 19), called the blood of God (Acts 20:28), that is, of him who is God.
3. The persons for whom: For us, us poor perishing sinners, gone off from God, and turned rebels against him. He gave himself for us, not only for our good, but in our stead. Messiah was cut off, not for himself, but for us. He suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, 1 Pet. 3:18. He was made sin for us (an offering and sacrifice for sin), that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. 5:21. Wonderful condescension and grace! He loved us, and gave himself for us; what can we do less than love and give up ourselves to him? Especially considering,
4. The ends of his giving himself for us, (1.) That he might redeem us from all iniquity. This is fitted to the first lesson, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. Christ gave himself to redeem us from these, therefore put them away. To love and live in sin is to trample under foot redeeming blood, to despise and reject one of the greatest benefits of it, and to act counter to its design. But how could the short sufferings of Christ redeem us from all iniquity? Answer, Through the infinite dignity of his person. He who was God suffered, though not as God. The acts and properties of either nature are attributed to the person. God purchased his church with his own blood, Acts 20:28. Could payment be made at once, no need of suffering for ever. A mere creature could not do this, from the finiteness of his nature; but God-man could. The great God and our Saviour gave himself for us: this accounts for it. By one offering he hath for ever perfected those that are sanctified, Heb. 9:25, 26; 10:14. He needed not to offer himself often, nor could he be holden of death, when he had once undergone it. Happy end and fruit of Christ’s death, redemption from all iniquity! Christ died for this: and, (2.) To purify to himself a peculiar people. This enforces the second lesson: To live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Christ died to purify as well as to pardon—to obtain grace, to heal the nature, as well as to free from guilt and condemnation. He gave himself for his church, to cleanse it. Thus does he make to himself a peculiar people, by purifying them. Thus are they distinguished from the world that lies in wickedness; they are born of God, and assimilated to him, bear his image, are holy as their heavenly Father is holy. Observe, Redemption from sin and sanctification of the nature go together, and both make a peculiar people unto God: freedom from guilt and condemnation, freedom from the power of lusts, and purification of soul by the Spirit. These are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and so a peculiar people. And, (3.) Zealous of good works. This peculiar people, as they are made so by grace purifying them, so must they be seen to be so by doing good, and a zeal therein. Observe, The gospel is not a doctrine of licentiousness, but of holiness and good life. We are redeemed from our vain conversation, to serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. Let us see then that we do good, and have zeal in it; only looking that zeal be guided by knowledge and spirited with love, directed to the glory of God, and always in some good thing. And thus of the motive to the duties directed, from the end of Christ’s death.
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